HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Now, more than ever, is the time show nurses appreciation during National Nurses Week.
Many nurses across the country are experiencing burnout 14 months into the pandemic.
At Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in Henrico County, nurses said the past year has been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding.
“I wouldn't change my job, not even during the pandemic," said forensic nurse examiner, Bethany Porter.
Just last month, Porter's unit saw a record high number of patients.
“A lot of the violence we’re seeing, specifically domestic violence, is worse, and there’s more of it," Porter explained. “People are getting pushed to the brink I feel like with COVID, and it is definitely taking a toll."
Porter spends her days evaluating victims of sexual and physical violence, and said mask-wearing has made communication with these patients more difficult.
"You don’t know how much you rely on reading lips to understand people, and it does add an extra layer to conversation," she said. "My job is to talk to people about some really difficult things, so it’s definitely kind of brought some unique challenges being able to have trauma-informed empathetic conversations with just the eyes."
On top of her heavy caseload, Porter is also balancing life as a new mom. She gave birth to her son last April, just one month into the lockdown. She spent months worried about potentially bringing the virus home from work.
“It was incredibly difficult and definitely challenging, but I got through it, and feel like I’m a stronger mom," she noted.
Across the hospital on the cardiovascular step-down unit, Nurse Director Ashley Beyer said her team has also had their struggles.
“They really do give all they have to their patients and sometimes leave very little for themselves," said Beyer.
But she said COVID-19 has taught them a lot.
“There are things that we've been able to innovate and do during the pandemic that will progress our career," Beyer noted.
While long hours in the hospital are the norm for these healthcare heroes, they said they love their job.
This Nurse Appreciation Week, both Porter and Beyer are thankful for the gifts and recognition, but they say the best reward comes in knowing they made a difference in someone’s life.
“You know those kind words and simple thank you are extremely helpful, and we appreciate it," Beyer explained.
While Virginia has made significant progress with COVID-19 vaccinations, these nurses said St. Mary's is still seeing very sick patients. They ask you to continue to be vigilant, wear your mask and social distance.
Numerous celebrations are planned at the hospital this week, including coffee and doughnut deliveries, pizza parties and gift bags to say thank you to these men and women who work hard everyday to save lives.